July 19, 2011

Microsoft Offers Bounty For Botnet Information

Software giant Microsoft is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of those controlling the Rustock virus, The Los Angeles Times is reporting.

The infamous Rustock was at one time responsible for turning an estimated 1 million computers worldwide into spamming machines, churning out billions of spam emails. The reward offer comes a few months after Microsoft, law enforcement and industry partners took down the botnet in March by dismantling a core network of servers.

Not content to merely halt the flow of junk email, Microsoft placed ads in Russian newspapers in St. Petersburg and Moscow in an attempt to root out the main perpetrators behind the spam machine. Evidence suggests they operated out of Russia, Microsoft said.

When running virtually unchecked, the Rustock computer virus infiltrated computers as users unwittingly visited compromised websites. Once the botnet gained control, the computer could be marshaled to the service of its overlords and tasked with sending junk mail, including lottery scams and links to sites that peddled unlicensed pharmaceutical drugs, The Register reports.

Senior attorney for the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, Richard Boscovic, explained in a blog post that the $250,000 reward "stems from Microsoft's recognition that the Rustock botnet is responsible for a number of criminal activities and serves to underscore our commitment to tracking down those behind it.

"While the primary goal for our legal and technical operation has been to stop and disrupt the threat that Rustock has posed for everyone affected by it, we also believe the Rustock bot-herders should be held accountable for their actions."

Since the take down, Microsoft said, the number of computers controlled by Rustock has dropped by more than half. Anyone with information about Rustock perpetrators should email Microsoft at [email protected].


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